Archive for March 8, 2016

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Apple to Pay $450 Million E-Book Settlement

Greg Stohr (Ars Technica, Hacker News):

Apple Inc. must pay $450 million to end an antitrust suit after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to question a finding that the company orchestrated a scheme to raise the prices for electronic books.

The justices, without comment, turned away an appeal by Apple, leaving intact a federal appeals court ruling favoring the U.S. Justice Department and more than 30 states that sued.


“Following Apple’s entry, output increased, overall prices decreased, and a major new retailer began to compete in a market formerly dominated by a single firm,” the company said in its appeal.

Mitchel Broussard:

Specifically, the amount will be broken down to have $400 million paid out to e-book customers, $20 million to the states, and $30 million in the form of legal fees. The case saw Apple fighting an accusation that in 2010 it colluded with five publishers -- HarperCollins, Simon and Schuster, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan, and Penguin -- to fix the prices of e-books in order to become a dominant presence in a market overshadowed by companies like Amazon.

Jason Snell:

I believe, based on my layman’s understanding of the case, that Apple and the publishers really did violate the law. The oddity is that the collusion seems to have been an attempt to create more competition in a market previously dominated by Amazon.

John Gruber:

I think they got the shaft.


Amazon uses MFN to be able to match the lowest price available. Apple uses MFN to fix prices so that nobody sells the same titles for less than they do.


MFN in combination with the five-publisher collusion orchestrated by Apple let them negotiate to increase prices.


If you look at emails and communication from people involved, it seems pretty clear to me that Apple knowingly and actively participated in a conspiracy to fix prices. They really took the leading role in organizing the publishers and proposing the illegal-price fixing model. I will give you an overwhelming amount of evidence just in one comment, and a link to explore further details.


This isn’t about Apple giving the same deal to all publishers. This was about Apple convincing all publishers to give all other retailers the same deal as Apple -- and all at the same time, as a single group across essentially the entire industry, thus resulting in price fixing and price increases.

Update (2016-03-08): Kirk McElhearn:

But even if there’s $400 million that will be spent on ebooks – and, while many people may never spend what they get, others will spend more than what they get, because their share won’t be enough to buy a book – this amount will inject a huge sum of money into the publishing industry.

FlexBright Approved and Then Pulled

Juli Clover:

FlexBright, an app that allows the user to manually adjust the display temperature of an iOS device, was recently approved by Apple, marking one of the first third-party apps that’s able to function in a manner similar to the company’s own Night Shift mode, set to be released in iOS 9.3. The only catch is it must be triggered somewhat manually in response to a notification, rather than continuously, like Night Shift or f.lux.


According to one of the developers behind FlexBright, using this notification system was the only way Apple would allow the app to change brightness or blue light while running in the background.


FlexBright is notable because it offers display temperature adjustments for devices that are not compatible with Apple’s Night Shift mode. FlexBright is available on devices running iOS 7 or iOS 8, while Night Shift is limited to devices running iOS 9.3, and it’s also available on non-64-bit devices like the iPhone 5 and earlier.

An update says that FlexBright has been removed from the App Store, for unknown reasons. The developer claims not to have used private API.

Previously: Apple Forbids Sideloading f.lux, Night Shift in iOS 9.3.

Update (2016-03-10): Juli Clover:

FlexBright developer Sam Al-Jamal told MacRumors he had worked with Apple through several app rejections to get FlexBright into the App Store and that no private APIs were in use, something that was seemingly confirmed by the app’s approval, but further review from Apple led to FlexBright’s removal. Al-Jamal has shared Apple’s explanation with MacRumors following an “exhausting discussion” with the Cupertino company. “The bottomline is [Apple] won’t allow apps to change screen colors,” he said.

Why I Started Using Apple Pay

Cade Metz:

As you wait in line with your razor blades and Softsoap, some other poor soul will swipe their credit card through the reader on the counter—and nothing will happen, because it’s one of those new chip cards designed for better security. Then, a (slightly exasperated) cashier will tell this poor soul to push the card into a slot at the front of the reader. The poor soul will do this—and nothing will happen again, because the new chip tech is horribly slow.


My local drugstore is a CVS, and the card readers are made by a company called Verifone. But all this sorrow is only partly their fault. The problem also lies with the new chip technology itself. The big-name credit card companies are forcing stores across the country to adopt this “EMV” tech (short for Europay, MasterCard, and Visa), and at best, it’s noticeably slower than paying with a good old fashioned magnetic stripe card. At worst, you’re stuck in line at CVS for ten minutes with your razor blades and Softsoap while some sort of archaic cash register reboots itself.

I was initially skeptical of Apple Pay because it didn’t seem like it would be faster, and I have to carry the credit cards, anyway. Since then, Apple made Touch ID much faster. And merchants started using these chip readers that are shockingly slow and often fail to work on the first try.

Nook Cooked in UK

Craig Grannell:

Nook is dead in the UK, and customers who bought books thinking they might actually own them are now being told they might be able to still access some of them once the Nook store implodes, due to a partnership with “award-winning Sainsbury’s Entertainment on Demand”.

Via Kirk McElhearn:

Once again, DRM screws users. Google can tell you how to get rid of DRM on some kinds of ebooks. Not that I’m suggesting it, but to make sure you can read the books you paid for, it’s worth considering your options…

Update (2016-03-19): Craig Grannell:

When it comes to movies and telly, I fear things won’t change for a very long time, due to studios being blinkered and paranoid. Right now, I could download almost any show or movie entirely for free, and would be able to watch wherever and whenever I like. By contrast, I can pay over the odds for a digital file that only works on specific hardware and/or using specific software, and that might vanish from a cloud library without notice. Subsequently, I almost never buy digital TV shows or movies now, preferring streaming; and on those very few occasions I do succumb, it’s either a rare DRM-free download (for example, from a Kickstarter), or for something that’s inherently disposable that I only really want to watch once.